Rutecki: CWRU should embrace ideological diversity, including conservatives

Paul Rutecki, Columnist

It is a blessing that our school showcases diversity in many ways. As a Case Western Reserve University student, I have the privilege of interacting with and meeting other students from various states, countries, cultures, ethnicities and backgrounds, and I have learned much from them.

For instance, I recall the moment when my first-year roommate, from sunny Pasadena, California, first saw snow falling from the sky. “Huh? Everyone’s seen snow,” I briefly thought to myself as a native of Rochester, New York, before realizing that of course California has a warmer climate. I am sure he was less thrilled the first time he had to trudge through snow in below-freezing temperatures to the engineering quad and back.

Although as a student body we embrace diversity in numerous forms, we fail to embrace ideological diversity. The political atmosphere of CWRU is very much liberal-dominated, and plenty of students do not even consider the conservative viewpoint of political issues.  The Observer reflects the campus, and consequently, has shown some liberal bias as well.  Because more students expressed interest in attending the Women’s March on on Washington, D.C. than Donald Trump’s inauguration, the former event takes precedence in the newspaper.    

The liberal environment on campus has hampered ideological diversity and caused many conservative students to go into hiding. This idea can be illustrated by a surprising political conversation I had with two friends at Potbelly Sandwich Works before the election, which went something like this:

Friend A: “I didn’t know you were voting for Trump.”

Friend B: “Yeah, I’m unhappy with the poor trade deals our country is making and our stagnant economic growth.”

After this exchange, the three of us discussed the unpopularity of supporting Donald Trump at CWRU and the negative stereotypes many students associate with those “not with her.” These types of private discussions happen often among Republican students who want to remain well-liked by their peers.

My Facebook News Feed on Nov. 9 reminded me why I often think twice before voicing political opinions in public. Some of the numerous student posts I read about the election were merely lamentations about Hillary Clinton’s loss, which is understandable. But others were diatribes against people like me that made me question whether we even care about students with different political opinions, much less value diversity. “Trump appeals to the selfishness within Christians when Christians are taught vehemently to reject selfishness!” is a portion of one such post from someone I consider to be a good friend.

Even one of my professors insulted Republicans in the middle of class, by saying, “I can’t think of any reason why someone would vote for Trump,” before making fun of Trump’s appearance by calling him “orange.” At CWRU, we need to create a political climate of tolerance and respect, not one of childish name-calling.

As students, we need to embrace our ideological diversity by being willing to reach out to people who have different politics. We must be willing to try and understand their perspective and recognize, as writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie eloquently describes in her TED talk, “the danger of a single story.” We may not always agree with each other, and that is okay, but showing compassion to our neighbors by listening to their story is something we can all strive for. Besides, no one wants to lose friends over a bunch of old politicians on Capitol Hill.

Paul is a third-year student majoring in accounting who loves to play cello.